Colostrum is milk which is formed in the udder of the cow shortly before she calves. The purpose is to keep the calf healthy and to help it grow. Normally people do not drink colostrum, although it is rich and very wholesome.
When a cow comes into contact with a disease, antibodies are formed in her blood to protect her against the disease. Before she calves, the various antibodies accumulate in the udder as colostrum, which offers the calf protection against the diseases for the first six months of its life.
A calf that does not get enough colostrum can soon die, and that is why the following points are very important:
- A calf can only ingest antibodies during the first 12 hours of its life. Therefore it is important that it should drink from its mother as soon as possible and as much as possible.
- Never milk a cow before the calf has had an opportunity to drink sufficiently.
- If either the cow or the calf is very weak, provide all necessary assistance. It is essential for the calf to get sufficient colostrum.
- Do not interfere if all seems to be going well. A nervous cow will not give her milk, with the result that the calf will get too little colostrum.
- Colostrum is secreted for 3 - 5 days after birth, and apart from antibodies it also contains nutrients that do not occur in ordinary milk, as well as a growth factor that
stimulates the calf to grow and gain strength. Therefore do not milk the cow for own consumption until at least three days have passed.
AO de Kock
ELSENBURG / VREDENDAL veterinary